Illustration Studies has, in recent years, emerged as a new and vibrant discipline with its own journals, book series, conferences, websites, and research networks. The renewed interest and dynamic research in this field of study follows a period of long neglect by scholars, resulting from the uncertain cross-medial status of illustration and its position between disciplines. Indeed, the frontiers of this discipline remain nebulous and its terminology, key issues, and critical methods are in need of re-evaluation. By its very nature, illustration opens up a number of fundamental questions regarding the relation between text and image, the illustrated book and visual culture, artistry and reproduction.
Is illustration by definition text-inspired and connected to a material book? Can its images also be considered within a uniquely visual field of reference and how does this affect its signifying potential? Should one consider illustration as a form of adaptation? Do theorists, scholars, practitioners, and educators share the same view of illustration? Does the art of illustration deserve more scholarly recognition across disciplines than its utilitarian and commercial products (and how has this changed over time)? Embedded in a context of production and connected to a text to a variable degree, illustration is a medium with its own conventions, traditions, and signifying practices that currently requires in-depth and interdisciplinary reconsideration as an object of study. A re-evaluation of illustration as a medium and of Illustration Studies as a discipline must also take into account new directions in the training that illustrators-to-be receive. All of these questions can be understood historically – so the idea of ‘New Directions’ can be addressed in respect of the contemporary state of Illustration Studies – but also in terms of significant shifts in the way that illustration has been understood and approached in other periods.